Posted by: spacewritinguy | March 19, 2008

Book: Conservatives in Space – Introduction

The next few entries will be content from a book I wrote and dropped due to length (too short). Perhaps this, truly, is my “manifesto” on space. Inputs welcome.

Introduction  The Politics of Space

You will find two messages in this book:

  1. Expanding our civilization into space will make us all better off—materially, politically, militarily, educationally, and even culturally.
  2. The biggest challenge to expanding Western Civilization to the solar system is politics.

The words that follow will explain why this is so, and what can be done about it. However, to put it briefly:

Material Benefits

Space makes us better off because it contains resources—especially solar energy and metals—that enable us to enrich our lives here without damaging our world.

Political Benefits

Space is such a wide frontier that only a decentralized, limited government could enable individuals to develop it freely and effectively. The solar system is too vast for a single nation to explore, settle, and develop. It will take the efforts of thousands of private individuals and companies to incorporate the resources of the Solar System into our economic sphere. Lessons we learn “out there” can translate into political freedoms on Earth as well.

Military Benefits

Technologies used to transport people and cargo into and through space can also be used to maintain the strength of our armed forces.

Educational Benefits

Space technology is still vastly complicated, and the environments of the Moon, Mars, and other worlds of our solar system are unfamiliar and hostile. Opening this frontier to a large portion of the population will give direction and purpose to the educations we provide our children. Many different skills will be needed, not all of which can be taught by a one-size-fits all, national educational establishment. Space will show us what we need to learn, and individual states, districts, and schools will need to adapt to prepare the next generation for what lies ahead.

Cultural Benefits

Space should not be just a technological endeavor; it is an expression of our nation’s highest aspirations and dreams. Setting forth into space for the express purpose of building a better world gives our nation—and, indeed, our civilization—a task worthy of itself. The pride Americans feel at our nation’s space accomplishments need not be second-hand. Opening the space economy allows people to contribute directly to a cause larger than themselves—the cause of building free worlds beyond this one—worlds that could ultimately serve as shining examples for our own.

One might reasonably ask: why do I care? If America explores and settles the Moon, Mars, and other planets of the solar system, what’s in it for me? Quite frankly, I want to take a vacation on the Moon. I want to manage the first space hotel. I come from a long line of traveling Irishmen who worked on railroads, trucks, and airlines, so it seemed natural that I would move on to the next place worth traveling.

I am not an astronaut or an engineer, nor do I have the time or interest in acquiring the training to be one; the only way that I, Joe Shmoe, Writer and Private Citizen, would be able to travel into space would be if space travel is nearly as common and affordable as airline travel is now. So far, this hasn’t happened. Somehow politics have stood in the way of my lunar vacation.

In order for space travel to become so common that thousands or millions of people can afford it, certain things need to happen. I must make some political as well as economic assumptions. This book is written from a conservative point of view. The flavor of conservatism I believe in values “the American dream” embraced by immigrants of the past two centuries. I also stand by Christianity, limited government, lower taxes, and less adventuring overseas. If my liberal friends wish to write their own book about what to do in space, I welcome their thoughts. The more people talk about space, the happier I’ll be.

Having said all that, I am assuming that:

  • America will continue to be the leader of the free world.
  • America will continue to be a nation of the middle class.
  • The world will not destroy itself in large-scale factional war.
  • The size of government can be kept in check by involved and mindful citizens.
  • The private sector can and will step up and succeed in areas where the government is in retreat or can be forced to retreat.

These are by no means obvious assumptions; so you, dear reader, must either take them on faith or keep them in mind when I start making policy recommendations.

The space program as we know it today was formed by John F. Kennedy, who challenged an unprepared nation to send men to the moon and back safely within a decade. The United States rose to meet that challenge, and we beat the Soviets in the space arena of the Cold War, developing a lot of other technologies that are still with us today. One can only stand in awe and marvel at the efforts achieved in those eight short years, as I do.

However, the path that Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and every president since then laid out did not (and will not) lead to the sort of free and open economy that would get space tourists like me into space on a regularly scheduled basis.

Today, the federal budget is around three trillion dollars. Of that $3 trillion, .58 percent (~$17 billion) is spent on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Assuming the Vision for Space Exploration–now the U.S. Space Exploration Policy–gets serious funding after the Shuttle is retired in 2010, the U.S. will get a new series of exploring spacecraft, the first to go beyond Earth orbit since 1972. These ships also may launch astronauts to the International Space Station. All well and good; but that won’t get me there, and I still want to go.

What I plan to do, then, is show how we got here, where we are now, and what needs to happen in the future so that I—and you, dear reader—can buy that ticket for the Moon.

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